Etymology
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Words related to ideal

idea (n.)

late 14c., "archetype, concept of a thing in the mind of God," from Latin idea "Platonic idea, archetype," a word in philosophy, the word (Cicero writes it in Greek) and the idea taken from Greek idea "form; the look of a thing; a kind, sort, nature; mode, fashion," in logic, "a class, kind, sort, species," from idein "to see," from PIE *wid-es-ya-, suffixed form of root *weid- "to see."

In Platonic philosophy, "an archetype, or pure immaterial pattern, of which the individual objects in any one natural class are but the imperfect copies, and by participation in which they have their being" [Century Dictionary].

Meaning "mental image or picture" is from 1610s (the Greek word for it was ennoia, originally "act of thinking"), as is the sense "concept of something to be done; concept of what ought to be, differing from what is observed." Sense of "result of thinking" first recorded 1640s.

Idée fixe (1836) is from French, literally "fixed idea." Through Latin the word passed into Dutch, German, Danish as idee, which also is found in English dialects. The philosophical sense has been somewhat further elaborated since 17c. by Descartes, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, Kant. Colloquial big idea (as in what's the ...) is from 1908.

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beau-ideal (n.)

"beautifulness or excellence as an abstract ideal," 1801, from French beau idéal "the ideal beauty, ideal excellence," in which beau is the subject, but as English word-order usually has the adjective first, the sense has shifted in English toward "perfect type or model." Compare beau + ideal.

idealism (n.)

1796 in the abstract metaphysical sense "belief that reality is made up only of ideas," from ideal (adj.) + -ism. Probably formed on model of French idéalisme. Meaning "tendency to represent things in an ideal form" is from 1829. Meaning "pursuit of the ideal, a striving after the perfect state" (of truth, purity, justice, etc.).

In the philosophical sense the Germans have refined it into absolute (Hegel), subjective (Fichte), objective (von Schelling), and transcendental (Kant).

That the glory of this world in the end is appearance leaves the world more glorious, if we feel it is a show of some fuller splendour : but the sensuous curtain is a deception and a cheat, if it hides some colourless movement of atoms, some spectral woof of impalpable abstractions, or unearthly ballet of bloodless categories. Though dragged to such conclusions, we can not embrace them. Our principles may be true, but they are not reality. They no more make that Whole which commands our devotion, than some shredded dissection of human tatters is that warm and breathing beauty of flesh which our hearts found delightful. [F.H. Bradley, "Principles of Logic," 1883]
idealist (n.)

"one who represents things in an ideal form," 1829, from ideal + -ist. Earlier (1796) in a philosophical sense "one who believes reality consists only in (Platonic) ideals" (see idealism).

It seems even incredible, that any Idealist in any age could forget himself so far as to run his head against a post, merely because he found in his system, that no external world does exist, and that therefore nothing could be without to hurt him. [F.A. Nitsch, "A General and Introductory View of Professor Kant's Principles," 1796]

Earlier still, "one who holds doctrines of philosophical idealism" (1701).

ideality (n.)

1817, "quality of being ideal;" see ideal (adj.) + -ity. In phrenology, "imaginative faculty" (1828); as the opposite of reality, 1877.

idealize (v.)

1786, "make ideal, consider as ideal," probably formed from ideal (adj.) + -ize. Related: Idealized; idealizing.

ideally (adv.)

"in the best conceivable situation," 1840, from ideal + -ly (2). Earlier "in an archetype" (1640s); "in idea or imagination" (1590s).